Breakout Session

Necessary Roughness in Voice Pedagogy: The Special Psychoacoustics of the Singing Voice

Monday, June 25 • 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.

Presenter: Ian Howell
Introduced by: Carol Chapman
Location: Cohiba 1-4

The role of the hearing mechanism in defining the sound of a singer is frequently under-explored in voice pedagogy texts. However, the ear is physical systems with limitations. One can explore the underlying rules of hearing to ask how one might possibly perceive the human voice. This is another way of asking what sounds the human voice is capable of making. This presentation will explore and synthesize three such limitations: auditory roughness, the resolvability of harmonics into the pitch, and absolute spectral tone color. This synthesis points to new models and labels, and invites a meaningful discussion of the inherent tonal qualities of a singing voice, especially those qualities incidental to speech comprehension. Concrete examples include Bozeman’s (2013) passive vowel modification framework, whoop coupling in the female voice, and the perceptual relevance of harmonics higher than the singer’s formant cluster in both the classical male and female singing voice.

About Ian Howell

Ian_Howell_Headshot.jpgPraised by the New York Daily News for his “rich voice, capable of great dramatic force,” and San Francisco Classical Voice for the “heart at the core of his soulful sound,” Ian Howell sings with a warm and seamless tone rarely heard from countertenors. He has sung with Florentine Opera, New York City Opera, and Opera London, and with most major North American baroque orchestras. Howell has recorded for the American Bach Soloists, Warner Classics, Rhino, and Gothic labels. He can also be heard with the all-male chamber choir Chanticleer on multiple albums, including the Grammy award winning Lamentations and Praises. He has presented his research into the psychoacoustics of the singing voice at PAVA (2015, 2016), NATS (2016), Harvard's ArtTechPsyche III (2017), and the Society for Music Perception and Cognition (2017). Dr. Howell joined the voice faculty at the New England Conservatory of Music in 2014.